Legionnaires' disease can result when droplets or aerosols containing legionella bacteria are inhaled and deposited in the lungs. A number of outbreaks have been associated with the use of a spa pool where aeration, a high water temperature, and a large and variable organic load make disinfectant levels difficult to maintain. Spa pool ownership is increasing, and the aim of this study, using two surrogate organisms (MS-2 coliphage and Pseudomonas aeruginosa [a natural contaminant]), was to assess the potential risk to domestic users when disinfection fails. A representative "entry level" domestic spa pool was installed in an outdoor courtyard. The manufacturer's instructions for spa pool maintenance were not followed. A cyclone sampler was used to sample the aerosols released from the spa pool with and without activation of the air injection system. Samples were taken at increasing heights and distances from the pool. An aerodynamic particle sizer was used to measure the water droplet size distribution at each sample point. When the air injection system was inactivated, neither surrogate organism was recovered from the air. On activation of the air injection system, the mean mass of droplets within the respirable range (10 cm above the water line) was 36.8 μg cm-3. This corresponded to a mean air concentration of P. aeruginosa of 350 CFUm-3. From extrapolation from animal data, the estimated risk of infection from aerosols contaminated with similar concentrations of Legionella pneumophila was 0.76 (males) and 0.65 (females). At 1mabove and/or beyond the pool, the mean aerosol mass decreased to 0.04 μg cm-3 and corresponded to a 100-fold reduction in mean microbial air concentration. The estimated risk of infection at this distance was negligible.
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© 2015, American Society for Microbiology.